Garment Elements

Low Necklines

If you use your standard Bodice Block to create a garment with a low neckline, you will get gaping in the neck of the garment. The Contouring pages under the Principles Menu cover this issue in detail, with an explanation of why this occurs and how to make the necessary adjustments when making your pattern to avoid that gaping.  There are seven pages in the Contouring menu, which follow on from each other and should be read in the order they appear in the menu.  Below find a brief summary of the low neckline issue, which applies also to sleeveless garments, especially those with cutaway armholes.   If you have both a low neckline and sleeveless/cutaway arm design, you need to make adjustments for both.


When creating garments with low necklines, you need to use a block that has contouring markings, and you need to know how to use that information.  In order to mark that information on the block you need an understanding of Contouring.  In order to use that information, you need an understanding of Manipulating Darts.

Example (Low Neckline) – Figure 1

This is a Bodice Block (Front) that has contour markings.  These lines show where gaping will occur – we will be looking in particular at the green lines (No.5) as they are the ones that relate to low necklines.  (You will often have to take No.4. the shoulder line into account as well, but in this example we don’t). See Figure 2 for an example of how this information helps you when you make a garment with a low neckline.

Example (Low Neckline) – Figure 2

In this image the neckline has been drawn on the block (left).  Where the red line crosses the contouring marks shows you the amount of contouring that needs to be done.  This shows the width of the gape that would occur at this level, and this gape dart needs to be moved – i.e. moved into a dart or a design line that is part of the design of the garment. In the traced pattern to the right in Figure 2, you can see how much gaping will occur with this neckline depth.  Now this might not seem an awful lot (it’s actually about 1/4-inch), but this is the half-block, so a 1/2-inch gape (1.25 cm) is significant.  Don’t forget also that this is a standard block – see Figure 3 for how much gaping there would be on my personalized block.  See Figure 4 for how how to move this gape dart into one of the other darts.

Example (Low Neckline) – Figure 3

This image shows my block with my contour markings – compared to the standard block above, I will have a larger amount to take in for lower necklines.   My body form which shows why the contouring is needed.

Example (Low Neckline) – Figure 4

The gape dart is moved into one of the other darts – in this case the side seam dart.
  • The pattern is cut along the gape dart line to the Bust Point, and from the Bust Point along one of the other dart legs.  The pattern piece is now in two pieces – in the image the armhole piece is shown in color for emphasis.
  • The armhole portion is pivoted on the Bust Point until the gape dart is closed.  Note that the side seam dart is increased.
  • The neckline needs to be redrawn.
  • The side seam dart needs to be redrawn.
Where the design crosses multiple contouring marks – they all need to be moved  – see Figure 5.

Example (Low Neckline) – Figure 5

The example above had a low neckline and the design crossed only one of the Contour Markings.  In this image this design with cutaway arms and low neckline crosses 5 of the contour markings .    Creating this pattern would entail:
  • No 1 – reducing the width of the block.
  • No 4 – changing the shoulder line slightly.
  • No 2, 3 & 5 – moving these three gape darts into a dart or design line that is part of the design.

5 Responses

  1. Hello Maria. you mentioned “The gape dart is moved into one of the other darts – in this case the side seam dart.”. can the gape dart be moved anywhere else like if there is no side seam dart in the pattern, can it be moved to the waist dart. But I remember you said the waist dart should not be more than 1.75 inch. so what would you advice if the gape dart is transferred to the waist and this enlarges the waist and may cause distortion,?

  2. Hello again,

    The gape dart can be moved anywhere. If you want to move it into the waist dart, you can if you don’t mind having a dart that is larger than is optimal.

    The issue with large darts and overly curvy seams is that the seam will not lie flat and it can be difficult and time consuming to iron without ending up wrinkly. It also has less ‘hanger appeal’ as well as ‘lying flat’ appeal. (Garment sold in shops need to look good on hangers and folded flat. Sometimes garments made for non-standard bodies look good when worn, but not so good hanging up or folded). If all of that doesn’t matter for you, then go for it. (I have a top that looks horrible flat and on a hanger, is difficult to iron, but I’ve had a number of compliments from people when I wear it….)

    Having said … I prefer not to work with really large darts or really extreme curves; I hate how difficult it is to iron, etc, especially very wide 2-ended darts – e,g, going from bust through the waist to the hip.

    Your other options are:
    1. Put a tuck in the neckline if that suits the pattern (e.g. Dress 003 in the Patterns menu has a little tuck in the neckline). You could alternatively add some gathers in the neckline.
    2. Move it into the waist, but create two waist darts instead of having one big one
    3. Create a side seam dart (You say there is no side seam dart, but you could put one in. If you have a waisted garment you could move some of the waist dart into that side seam dart so that you don’t have a tiny side seam dart. Or you could just have a small side seam dart).
    4. Add a design line is… e.g. a princess line

    There may be other things I could suggest, but I would need more detail on the design as a whole (Is it waisted? Are you creating it or adjusting someone else’s pattern? Are you really determined to keep the design as is, or you don’t mind changing it?…. etc).

    I will come back later and attach a photo of a top where i have large two-ended darts and you can see the distortion. Notice that you need a very small seam allowance in this case….. (I’m having trouble opening Photoshop at the moment, so I’ll submit this comment and come back and upload the photo at a later time).

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